Sep 2014

Ice Diving

By Mike Waddington

Diving can take us to some amazing and remote locations on the earth, wherever water exists we can go diving. If you really want to push your diving to the limits, then why don’t you give ice diving a shot? Ice diving can be done wherever the sea, or fresh water freezes over, however there are some Ice Diving locations that will blow your mind!

Locations:

The White Sea is the only place in Europe where the sea gets covered in ice during winter and is one of the best places in the world to learn ice diving. From February to April the sea freezes over and locks the surface away from all the amazing marine life that stays below. As you plunge below to frozen surface you will experience all kinds of wacky cold water marine life and stunning crystal clear visibility, with the ice roof allowing light though but creating some strange effects. There is also a good chance on seeing Beluga Whales here and because you will need to visit in winter, you will also have a good chance of seeing the northern lights.

Greenland has a different form of ice diving for you to try out, although the sea doesn’t completely freeze over. You can dive around the glaciers that are dumping hundreds of thousands tonnes of ice into the sea every day. Imagine swimming around in crystal clear water, with huge floating boulders above your head! Imagine being able to say that you have been diving at the North Pole, not many divers on earth could say this. But if you get into ice diving and have a keen sense of adventure then maybe one day you can.

Contrary to popular belief there is no ice diving in Iceland. Because of the Gulf stream (which is responsible for keeping the UK and Norway from having the same climate as Canada) passing by the small island nation, it keeps the water temperature too warm for ice to properly form. There is other amazing diving in Iceland however. You can dive around geothermal chimneys, cod spawning and some incredibly fresh water diving such as geothermal lakes and Silfa which boasts the clearest water on earth.

Procedures:

There are many different procedures to diving under the ice. You still dive with the buddy system, however now you have a team member on the surface monitoring you as well. Because the water can be so clear and the hole you may enter under the water may be very small, you will be connected to your “surface support” at all times. The mission of the surface support is to control the line, by letting more out as the diver moves away from the entry point and pulling it in as the diver comes back again. It is important that the line is controlled at all times so the diver does not get tangled in excess line. The diver can also communicate with the surface support by tugging on the line, and with a different amount of tugs meaning a different thing. There should also be another diver kitted up ready to jump in at a moment’s notice, in case there are any emergencies during the dive. This diver also has their own tender, so as you can tell Ice diving is a real team activity!

Equipment:

Care should also be taken when selecting the equipment used for Ice Diving. Of course the regulator needs to be designed for cold water, so it does not freeze up underwater, however for ice diving the diver should really be using the same set up as a technical diver would. With 2 separate regulators attached to 2 tanks, which should be connected by a manifold. This is because if one of the first stages freezes and the diver suffers a catastrophic free flow, the only way to stop it is by shutting down the affected regulator. A dry suit with suitable undergarments must be worn as well, as diving in water as cold as 4 degrees could be fatal if the proper thermal protection is not worn. For more information on keeping warm below the ice, check out our blog ‘Keep Wrapped Up’.

Risks:

Ice diving has the same risks as all overhead environment diving, but a few are specific to ice diving, due to extreme temperatures that the diver (and surface team) have to deal with, both above and below the ice. These risks may include but are not limited to: Frostbite, Hypothermia, Entrapment from shifting ice, slipping on the ice with very heavy equipment, post dive water can freeze on the exposure suit worn greatly reducing mobility and traction, potential for dangerous wildlife for surface support (polar bears, depending on dive location)

Ice diving is possibly one of the most extreme forms of diving and can take you to some of the most remote and most beautiful parts of the world. If you feel that you want to go somewhere no one has ever gone before, then Ice Diving may be just the sport for you!

‘Ice Diving’ was written by Mike

Photo Credit Janne Hellsten

Related Blogs: Keep Wrapped Up & Cold Water Considerations

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!

Qualifications:

PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia